Neat Receipts Review
When you buy the Neat Receipts Scanalizer, you'll get a compact, lightweight scanner, along with software to organize your digital images, a USB cable, and storage accessories.
The Neat Receipts Scanalizer specializes in scanning and storing the images and details of receipts, business cards, and any paper documentation up to 8.5 inches wide. Scan a receipt and the software will pull the transaction date, amount, and sales tax into the software, then categorize the transaction. Neat Receipts can even indicate if the receipt's amount is reimbursable or tax-deductible.
Scanned items are organized into folders with separate organizers for receipts, tax-related documentation, business cards, and miscellaneous documents. Receipts can be printed, emailed or exported to a PDF or a variety of other formats.
Neat Receipts is for people who want to keep paper documentation digitally organized, reduce the amount of paper you physically store in files (or piles), or export receipt data to a spreadsheet or financial software like TurboTax.
Neat Receipts Software
The Neat Receipts software is organized into four sections:
Receipts Organizer: Folders within this section separate business receipts from personal. They can also break down purchases by category. Scanned documents are saved as an image and the software automatically pulls the date, purchase amount, and other details.
Tax Organizer: This section contains 116 tax categories that make it easier to organize purchases and report them during tax season. Users can compile income tax information within the software, or generate tax documents including Form 1040 and Schedule A attachments. The tax data can be exported to TurboTax, Microsoft Excel, and other file types.
Business Cards and Contacts: Documents entered into this section are automatically scanned for contact information. Once it's pulled from the document, the information is organized in a contacts tab, where it can be searched, synchronized with other software, or exported as a file.
Documents Organizer: This catch-all section allows you to create descriptive folders that customize your organizing experience. Insurance policies, employee contracts, and any other miscellaneous documents can be stored here, and easily accessed through the search function.
Neat Receipts Scanner
The compact size and 10.6-ounce weight of the Neat Receipts Scanalizer make it ideal for business travelers. The scanner is capable of getting complete scans of unclear or crumpled receipts. For worn out receipts, the Adjust Image feature can help darken text and improve readability.
Calibrating the scanner is quick and easy, just scan the included sample paper with black markings. The software that comes with the scanner explains the calibration process with step-by-step instructions, though it can be a bit finicky to set up. However, once it's set up, you won't need to calibrate again and all the scanner's features will become fully available. Those features include auto-sizing, auto-cropping, and auto-rotation.
Installing and Getting Started with Neat Receipts
The software prompts will guide you through the installation process. Just follow the directions and take any shortcuts during the Neat Receipts installation to avoid potential hassles later on.
When you first plug in the Neat Receipts scanner, you'll be asked to specify whether you will use the scanner for personal use only (organizing personal and household expenses, managing tax-deductible expenses, saving documents) or for business use as well (organizing business expenses, creating expense reports). You can change this preference if you later decide to expand or reduce your use of the software.
Neat Receipts allows you to view a quick tutorial which explains the general use of the software, the scanner, and how they best work with receipts, tax reports, business cards, and documents.
The tutorial also explains how to calibrate the scanner using the calibration sheet. Each calibration of the Neat Receipts scanner takes less than a minute, though multiple calibrations are sometimes required. If you lose the calibration sheet that comes with the scanner, you can print your own.
Exporting Neat Receipts Data to Other Applications
Receipts, documents, and data scanned into Neat Receipts can be saved or exported in several formats. The formats are optimized for Microsoft Excel, QuickBooks, Quicken, Microsoft Money, or any software that imports QIF, OFX, and CSV data formats.
Exporting to PDF, HTML and Microsoft Word is straightforward, but before exporting to an Excel spreadsheet for the first time, you must map database fields between Neat Receipts and the spreadsheet column headings. Similarly, if you will be importing your receipt data from Neat Receipts to financial software, set up categories in Neat Receipts that are identical to your financial software categories to avoid issues.
Exporting OFX data from Neat Receipts to Microsoft Money is pretty straight forward, but if you use Quicken, keep in mind that it will only import QIF data into cash accounts. You will have to import the QIF transactions to the Quicken cash account, then move the transactions to the appropriate Quicken accounts.
Transaction Splits in Neat Receipts
Quicken, Microsoft Money, and other types of financial software utilize split transactions to divide a transaction into multiple categories. Neat Receipts splits receipts into multiple categories, but it doesn't display transaction splits the same way financial software does in the account register. Instead, one copy of the transaction shows up for each category. For example, you may have bought dog food, ice cream, and a roll of tape at one store, then split the receipt into categories for pets, groceries, and office supplies. You would see the receipt listed three times in Neat Receipts with the same date and vendor, but with different categories and dollar amounts.
Split transactions import from Neat Receipts into financial software with one transaction per category assigned in the split. It might not be the most visually convenient way of displaying the information, but it won't compromise the accuracy of financial reporting.
If you use Quicken or Microsoft Money and you want to have all split transactions share the same appearance in your account registers, use traditional methods of entering transactions, then export receipts from Neat Receipts to digital image files. Those files can be attached to transactions in Quicken (2007 and later) and Microsoft Money Plus (2008 and later).
Neat Receipts Help Features
Click on Help in Neat Receipts to see the Quick Start Guide and Neat Receipts Help. Both of these references are a quick read, and you may save yourself time and confusion by reading them before getting started, as opposed to trying to learn as you go. Section 2 of the Help PDF, for example, will ensure that you set up the software correctly. Save the PDFs to your desktop for easy reference while you're first learning how to use the software.
Other helpful links in the PDF include:
- Traditional, searchable help features
- Scanning and imaging troubleshooter
- Sample data view
- IRS tax information
- Neat Receipts online technical and customer support
Pros and Cons
Neat Receipts technical support is a highlight of the product. The tech team answers questions quickly and thoroughly in the online support forums, and the tech support chat is a great real-time source for help.
The software simplifies data entry, making it perfect for business travelers and self-employed individuals who need receipts and expense data for tax reporting. Neat Receipts is also useful for the home user who wants to store insurance policies, bank statements, bills, and other documentation in addition to receipts.
The only major downside is how Neat Receipts exports split transactions, and how Quicken users have to deal with more steps to import data into the appropriate account. Users may experience a delay when they launch Neat Receipts software, since the database loads each time the software is opened (instead of running continuously in the background).
Some additional features on the "Lite" version of the software include:
- Scan and automatically organize multiple documents at the same time
- Scan to PDF, then select and copy editable text from that PDF
- Smart sorting
- New tax summary reports
- Improved memory management, application performance, OCR, and parsing accuracy
- Convert to editable text
Neat Receipts scanners cost $134.99 and up. A subscription for the "Lite" version of the software costs $89.99 per year.